Promotional opportunities eyed on community TV

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
As seen on Channel 649 on the Bell satellite TV service, Gary Hoffman of the Hay River Elks Club spoke to town council about the channel on June 12.

Hay River has a rare opportunity to promote itself across Canada, and is trying to figure out what to do with it.

That opportunity is Channel 649 on the Bell satellite service.

For the past two-and-a-half years, Channel 649 has been showing the Hay River Elks Community Channel.

That involves mostly community announcements and the occasional town council meeting, and in the past it has also sometimes featured pre-recorded videos.

Now, the town council and the Elks Club have begun talking about how Channel 649 can be better utilized to promote Hay River.

“I think you have a great opportunity,” said Gary Hoffman of the Elks Club in an appearance before town council on June 12. “We’ve always had it since they turned it on. But nowadays everybody is busy. There are lots of issues and priorities that you have. This may be a little lower on your list. You just have to decide whether you want to bring it up a bit.”

Hoffman explained that the biggest challenge is to get volunteers interested in operating the equipment and providing content for the channel.

Mayor Brad Mapes said the town would like to put promotional videos on Channel 649.

“We have events like track and field, jet boat races, pond hockey, stuff like that that we could have videos and play them to promote our community to other people,” he said.

Hoffman said such videos could be played any time the town wants, noting videos have been played from the fire department, the RCMP, churches and schools.

“Again, they start off great guns, but because it’s all volunteer work it sort of fades away,” he told council. “To prolong it, to keep it going, I’m suggesting I guess that somebody has to step up and take ownership. One thing we talked about before was that at one time you had a full economic development/tourism officer, and possibly that’s a position that could be added to. You do have the capability of doing it now. It’s just that you’d have to go up to the high rise to play it.”

Hoffman agreed there should be more content on the channel.

The Elks representative noted new equipment, which will be installed shortly, will allow videos to be run remotely, but presenting live events would take a lot more resources.

Mapes suggested the Elks look at the additional equipment that would be required and the town could seek funding.

Coun. Keith Dohey said Channel 649 is a pretty big opportunity, which might justify setting up a working group to explore options.

“I think it’s worthwhile exploring further,” he said.

There are seven communities across Canada that have such access to the Bell satellite service.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ordered Bell to provide that access two and a half years ago.